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Subject:Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Lee Mon, Feb 20, 2006 IP:

I got this large jar from a very remote village in East Indonesia.

It has 4 dragons chasing 2 pearl motifs with 6 animal like lugs. Concave base.

I attached herewith 3 photographs for your review.

Comments on the probable origin & age of this large jar is most appreciated.

Thank you.


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Anthony J Allen Wed, Feb 22, 2006

Hi Lee,
I discussed this jar with my Hong Kong agent, who was previously the manager of the antique division of Chinese Arts and Crafts in Hong Kong.

Both of us consider that this jar has not got much age, largely because of the shape of the neck.

Most of the old martaban jars will have a broken lug, deliberately damaged by the peasant farmer who found it, in the belief that he will release the spirit of the dead, whose bones would have been placed inside it.

However, it is very difficult to date some of these jars, even when handled, so you might like to get a second opinion from your local museum.


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: PyroManiac Wed, Feb 22, 2006

It's a pity that so little has been written or even researched about shorage jars such as this. I personally find them extremely interesting and have quite a large collection to satisfy my curiousity and research. There are basically only three good books written on such jars. The best in my opinion is is by Barbara Harrison "PUSAKA- Hierloom Jars of Borneo" printed in 1986. The second best with many good color illustrations is "A Thousand Years of Stoneware Jars in the Philippines printed in 1992 and the last is a rather smallish book called Tempayan•Martavans printed by the Ceramic Society of Indonesia in 1984. Unfortunatley there are no new publications on this subject. And among these three books, they vary somewhat in their descriptions of similar jars. For example jars from South China and nothern Vietnam tend to share the same characteristics.

Even with all these books I still come across old jars that are completely unknown. Some I purchase if the price is right or they are unusual but I try to keep my collection to pre Qing jars simply because such jars from the 17th century onwards are still quite common. Many still being used today for various purposes. Mosty used as rice, water containers, for brewing rice wine or pickling food or simply kept as hierloom pieces in a prominent corner of the house. Only some of these jars have been used as burial coffins. Of those they can be identified by a small hole drilled into the side or the bottom of the jar to allow any liquid to escape. This should not be confused with jars that have a spigot or tap plugged into the side! These are modified jars to be used as water containers. Also the practice of knocking off a chunk from an ear or rim to realese spirits is fairly isolated to the Philippines.

Now back to your jar. How old is it and where was it manufactured. I follow my own check list when confronted with any jar. Shape, size, weight, style of ear lugs, the base, the rim and decorative motif.

Your jar has a very unique shape. Look at the neck with the extra bulge ring around it. What other jars have something like that? Look it up. Illustrated example in the book Hierloom jars of Borneo states 17th century and possibly Vietnamese. The book Stonewares Jars in the Philippines state 17th - 18th century from South China. The two example they illustrate are identical to your jar in every way!

No dimensions were given but I would suspect is about 50cm high. Considered a smaller jar. The larger the jar is, the less chances it is of being Chinese and more of South East Asian manufacture. If the jar is so huge that a person can climb into it, then its most likey a Burmese or Thai water jar.

Can't do this based on images but basically Chinese jars are lighter than South East Asian jars. The clay on SE Asian jars tend to be more reddish and have more iron content than Chinese versions.

The earlugs on your jar are vertical, thinner and more like a half donut. It sticks out very prominently. This is a feature on later Qing Chinese jars. Early Chinese jars tend to have larger and more simple horizontal ear lugs. If the earlugs are big, thick, chunky and not decorated in anyway, then it more likely the jar is of SE Asian manufacture.

The base on your jar is concave with the glaze going all the way down. A concave base is indicitive of Chinese manufacture. SE Asian jars tend to have a flat base. Early Chinese jar (pre-Ming) tend to have the glaze not go all the way down to the base. But instead are left in an unfinished manner leaving an area of exposed clay. Sometimes early jars have the glaze near the bottom end in wide circular loops caused by the potter applying the glaze by brushing the wet glaze in a circular motion. Like how someone would wash their car with a wet sponge; in circular sweeps round and round. However, if it seems like the glaze has been applied all the way down to the bottom, then scraped away leaving an exposed band of clay like a horizontal belt, that is indicitive of later Qing jars 17th century onwards (which I refer as newer jars).

One good way of identifying Qing period jars is the potter's use of an iron wash on the rim making it stronger. Glaze is scraped away and the wash applied. It does not matter if the rim is round, flat or rectangular, the iron wash can easily be spotted. I have not seen such a manufacturing technique on pre-Qing jars. It should be noted that NOT all Qing jars have an iron wash rim! Your jar does not seem to have an iron wash rim.

SE Asian jars tend to be simple and seldom have intricate decorations. Certainly not a dragon. However Chinese jars are the opposite. Mostly with lots of applied, incised decorations. Your jar has applied dragon decoration. Very Chinese. If a jar has a pie-crust style rim, it's Qing onwards!

So with all that, I have to conclude that your jar is from South China dating from the 17th - 18th centuries. A hierloom item and not a burial item. Mouth way too small to put a body inside. You will notice that I did not include GLAZE on my check list for any jar. Simply because you can't. The glazes for such jars have varied very little over a thousand years. I once knew a crude wine jar with an ashglaze that was very much like much older jars except it has an inscription written on the shoulder when the clay was still wet that said" Made in the 9th year of the reign of Guangxu." Rather recent as shipping jars go.

Yours is a nice jar. Certainly fit for any collection with it unusual shape. The great thing about collection storage jars... when you run out of space in your house for your smaller pieces, you can store them in your shipping jars that are presently on display! I do that. They take space as well as save space.

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: C Brown Fri, Feb 24, 2006

My compliments to PyroManiac for your excellent analysis!

I've watched this column for about 8 years now and I admire thoes that have the expertise and are willing to share it with the viewers.

If only we could keep the questions as interesting!

My thanks to all who share in this forum.

Charles Brown

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Walter Sat, Feb 25, 2006

Lee, Tony, Pyro,

Lee, I like your jar, I have seen too few of these.
Tony, Thanks for your help for beginning collectors like me who do not have the time or facilities for proper research.
PyroManiac, Your well considered response to Lee's query prompts me to ask if you would look at one of my jars if it is OK to add to this thread. I have "Martavans in Indonesia" published by The Ceramic Society of Indonesia, 1978(?), but although it has many photos, there is only sketchy information as to age or origin of the jars. For instance, I have one jar that is illustrated, but origin is not given and it is dated only by the chapter in the book to 18th century to modern.

The jar that I am trying to research was excavated from Palawan in the Philippines, sold as Song, but my best guess is Ming, 14-16 Century. What do you think? I also have other Martivans and large jars if you would like to take a look at them, on Forum or off.

The size is 23 1/2", 59 cm high and 20", 51 cm diameter.

Regards, Walter

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Walter Sat, Feb 25, 2006

The photos did not upload. Here is another try, slightly reduced size.

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: PyroManiac Mon, Feb 27, 2006

Hi Walter. Your guess is right on the mark. Not Song but Ming. These types of jars with thick handles in the form of dragons, foo dogs or tigers are generally dated to the 16th century and is only one of th few Ming period Chinese jars known on regular basis. Stoneware Jars in the Phillipines illustrate a few varying types and sizes of this family of jars all decorated with dragons. There was extensive trade between China and the Phillipines during the Ming period.

I also need to clarify a point I made about burial jars. What I was talking about were jars used specifically as coffins. That being bodies being put into jars thus needing the little hole for drainage. If there was no hole, you would end up with a decomposing stew if the jar was left above ground like in a wooden mosoluem, death hut or totem pole! But if the jar was buried, I guess there would be no need for such a hole. Trying to remember here. There were specific large jars made specially as coffins for monks in China then buried. I don't think there was a hole on these examples as well. As for items buried with the dead, yes indeed there can be countless number of items buried with the dead. So your jar as well as Lee's could very well be an excavted burial site. Buried witht he inturned. But not buried witht he body in the jar.


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: usman Fri, Jun 01, 2012

Try to check this picture we have and then just email me FYI.

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Ten Sun, Apr 17, 2022

How about this jar sir, this found in the remote village in Philippines.

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Anthony J Allen Sat, Feb 25, 2006

There is another small book titled "The Talking Jars", an exhibition catalogue by the Centennial Museum in Vancouver, Canada in 1971.

A narrow necked blue and white jar is illustrated Page 56, and recorded as being found in a grave.

Lee, can you confirm that there are quantities of dirt attaching to the underside of the base. I am not quite certain from the photo, but if there is, either the dirt attached during burial, or was applied later.


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Lee Sun, Feb 26, 2006

Hi Tony

There are very limited dirt found on the underside of the concave base.

Below are additional information on this large jar. It was found by my father-in-law approximating 30 years ago at a very remote village. Nothing was mentioned by him that this large jar was found from the grave when it was given to me.



Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: PyroManiac Sat, Feb 25, 2006

I will be glad to help in any way possible but you need to reload the images to the forum or have a link where we can see it off the forum page. Posting images to the forum is kinda tricky. The book Martavan Indonesia is a little hard to read cause the description and the image of what is being described are not always on the same page! Also a lot of the items described were not given a possible dating period. I guess the society did not really know which period they were from as well! THere is nothing more annoying than having a description that is vague.

Song jars are certainly possible in the Phillipines. From experience, jars from the 5 dynasties to Song which are considered the earliest jars to be found in SE Asia on a regular bases. Earlier jars like from the Han period can also be found but very infrequently as they did not yet form part of a regular trade route. Yuan jars are also found quite regularly. What I mean is that they are not common but form part of the "line" of period jars over the 1000 years of SE Asian trade jars. There was regular trade from the Yuan period with SE Asia. Then for some reason, during the Ming period, there are very little Chinese Ming shipping jars. Instead the shipping jars from this period are almost always of Thai origin as can be seen in many shipwrecks from the mid Ming to later Ming periods like on many Dutch East India Company ships and Portugese carracks. Then from the 17th century onwards, Chinese jars start to appear in great numbers again. Actually in huge numbers and Thai jars virtually disappeared from the trade scene.

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Walter Sun, Feb 26, 2006


I tried twice,unsuccessfully, to upload photos at 640x480 or less. I am using iMac with OS 9.2 and Netscape.

The photos of 5 Martabans are on my photo site at:[email protected]/album?.dir=/fb0e&.src=ph
The last 5 images are very large. Click on the thumbnail, then on "download".

Thanks for any comment.


URL Title :Martabans

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: PyroManiac Mon, Feb 27, 2006

I'm also using OS9.2 but if I need to upload an image, I do it using HTML source code instead of uploading an image. It's more straight forward. Anywas back to your jars.

Martaban 1 - Typical Qing shape with pie crust rim and iron wash on the rim. Concave base with a bank of exposed clay near the foot. Usually this would have been scrapped away but the glaze on this jar was applied very neatly so no need for scraping as the glaze did not flow down to the foot. 18th -19th century but more likely 19th century.

Martaban 2 - Already described.

Martaban 3 - Proberly the most common old storage jar you will come across. Widely made in huge numbers. First in China 19th century then by migrant Chinese potters who moved to Borneo in the late and early 20th centuries with local clay source. There is also a slightly earlier version with the same basic design and shape from the 18th century. The only differnece is that it was a little fatter and the neck more flattened. Look at the area of the the first horizontal band just below the ear lugs. The slope from that area to the base of the neck look about 30- 35 degrees? The earlier Guandong variety has a slope that is much flatter, maybe about only 10 degrees, thus making the shoulder look broader. So this is a later 19th century variety from China.

Martaban 4 - Of smilar type and age to Martaban 2. Ming period, from China.

Martaban 5 - This is the gem of the entire lot!!! an 11th century Khmer jar. Seldom seen outside Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I don't have one. I want one! Compare the flat base to a Chinese concave base. Very nice!!

Hope this helps.


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Walter Tue, Feb 28, 2006


Thanks so much for your reply. Jar #5 is a very welcome suprise. I have been collecting Khmer jarlets and lime pots, but never expected to find a jar this size. It has some repair but very well done except for a rough spot on the mouth rim.

Regards, Walter

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: njg Thu, Feb 23, 2006

Can you provide better detailed photo's of the dragon's, the flaming pearls and any other relevant motif's?


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Walter Mon, Feb 27, 2006


It was not clear if you are inquiring about Lee's jar of mine, but here are photos of the dragons and pearl on mine. There are 2 pair of dragons and 2 pearls, 5 handles in the form of fish that the dealer called tamasok fish, and 5 applied floral medalions on the shoulder.


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: njg Thu, Mar 02, 2006

Curious dragons, no horns, 3 clawed. Lion's mane in groups.
3 bands to the pot and 5 handles ( 5 eyes of Buddha).
The pearl is a representation of the Supreme unity.
Quite often within the dragons body form can be found the symbol Aum/Om. I'm not finding the symbol in these dragons. The tail of these dragons look to be of a much later form, but there was during the Song many different schools of dragon painters, but generally they have long sweeping horns.
The use of this form of dragon and the flaming pearl dates to the Han dynasty and can be found on bronzes of the Han period before the introduction of Buddhism into China.

I have seen these wares with as many as 6 handles.
The wares were made over a long period with the technique of sharp incisions

The above pot is more in a technique of raised.
The exposed bottom of a pot often shows unglazed rings were there is no glaze.


It's a nice pot, the method of decoration is not contemporary with the type of ware.

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Lee Mon, Feb 27, 2006

Hi njg

I attached herewith 2 detailed photographs of the dragons and lugs motifs of the jar.


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: njg Thu, Mar 02, 2006

The neck is too long with a motif I would consider a fairly modern motif (16th century), trellis which can be seen in gardens of Persian design and other wares. The triangular dots, three types of light, Sun Moon and Stars, the three bands to the vessel, the Trinity.

The glaze is all wrong, it should be more a subtle greenish coloured glaze. The wares were produced for the export of wine and pickles mainly. They were made over a long period without alteration.

Whoever made this has altered the know pot standard to very much "In the style of" and thrown in a few motif's for good measure, out of context and does not work with the rest of the piece.


If someone has sold you this as a Marataban jar then ask for your money back, it's not and could only be considered in the style of.

Could I have a close-up of the trellis work on the neck of the pot please.

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: PyroManiac Mon, Mar 06, 2006

Why do you say the glaze should be more greenish and neck too long?? What wares are you comparing this jar to?? The three dots you refer too are called rivets and are commonly found as a decorative motif on such jars from the 17th century onwards. They do not come only in triangle patterns but also horizontal and vertical bands as well as placed sparingly on the shoulder usually under, above or near each ear lug. It is said that these rivet decorations are used to simulate rivets used to hold down streached pieces of leather. Think of a large Chinese drum used for the lion dance. Rivets streach and hold down the leather tightly covering the drum beating surface.

The term Martaban jars simply refer to any large storage jar of asian origin. A very wide term covering a very wide range of wares. It is less used today (mostly in the west) as collectors as well as scholars in Asia prefer a more precise term... like Sawankhalok jar, Guandong jar, Yixing jar, Si Satchanalai jar, Sankampang jar etc.... In the 19th century and earlier, Western trading vessels picked up a lot of jars from Martaban, Myanmar. They called these large jars Martaban jars cause they didn't have any other name for it. The name stuck and was used as a name for all shipping/storage jars even until the 20th century. That is to say, that a jar described as a Martaban jar MUST not necessarily come from the city of Martaban. If that is the case, then yes this jar is incorrectly described. But the term Martaban jars is simply used as a very loose name for a specific type of large asian made shipping jar with a whole host of different glaze colors and characteristics.

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Walter Susor Thu, Mar 09, 2006

Here is another "Martiban" jar, not produced at or trans-shipped from Martiban. This is Philippine, the best that I can tell is that it is pre-colonial, from the northern Philippines, called banga or tadyao or other depending on the use and the dialect spoken. The jar is hard fired earthenware, very thin and light weight, and is unglazed but has traces of a red pigment. It is 13 3/4", 35 cm high and 15", 38 cm in diameter.

Regards, Walter

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Ian Thu, Mar 09, 2006

Walter's iamges did not upload correctly because the file names contained commas, which throw off the upoad. here are the two images again.

Ian editor

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: njg Tue, Mar 07, 2006

I was referring specifically to the this type of jar and the manner in which this particular pot differ's from the form of this type of pot.

Viz, the difference between an early and a later piece of this specific type of ware in form style and decoration. It's not an early ware of this specific form. If it was, it would look as the earlier form of this specific vessel does.
Not as this pot does a later form.

If you look at 14th 15th 16th century examples of this specific type of ware, they do not have long necks, and the decoration is incised
not raised.

If you try beating the pot with a drumstick you'll break it and is the most unlikely looking drum Iv'e ever seen

As to an earlier comparison pieces try S. J. Vainker's Chinese Pottery and Porcelain from Prehistory To The Present


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: PyroManiac Tue, Mar 07, 2006

Okey, first off. I never said this jar was used as a drum or was it ever meant to be a drum. I was talking about rivets and used the drum example as a reference. Please read my statements again. I also never stated that this jar is older than the 17th century. Please read my statements again.

As for earlier pre 16th century jars like Yuan jars having incised decoration, you are partially correct. Decorative motifs on such older jars are mostly incised but there are also applied decoration as well. The applied decorations are generally smaller in size and more restraint, not as large as the examples shown by Lee and Walter.

Also concerning this statement of your which I have to admit am finding a little trouble figuring exactly what you mean here...

"Viz, the difference between an early and a later piece of this specific type of ware in form style and decoration. It's not an early ware of this specific form. If it was, it would look as the earlier form of this specific vessel does. Not as this pot does a later form."

As far as I can make this out, you are trying to say that this jar cannot be old because the shape and decoration does not match to those of an earlier form? Well if that is the case, which earlier form of jar are you comparing Lee's jar to? It would really, really help if I can see the specific form of jar you are refering to. Even a description would help.

For those interested, I have included an image that shows the most common styles of "rivet" decoration used on jars from the 17th century onwards.

Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Ian Wed, Mar 08, 2006

re: "If you try beating the pot with a drumstick you'll break it and is the most unlikely looking drum Iv'e ever seen "

there was no suggestion in the previous post that the pot is a drum.

... these rivet decorations are used to simulate rivets ...

seems pretty clear. The key word is "simulate"

Another interesting discussion!


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: njg Thu, Mar 09, 2006

Come on, lets not get too serious , it was only a little tongue in cheek about the drum.

The ref is S. J Vainker Chinese Pottery and Porcelain,plate 108

He deals with the form I,ve compared the above pot too. He describes them as been little changed in form over a long period, Northern Song to late Ming. He cites excavations in the vicinity of Guangzhou with Northern Song reign marks.


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: PyroManiac Thu, Mar 09, 2006

I do not have that book so I cannot see exactly what kind of jar Vainker is refering to. What was the description that goes with the plate? What I think Vainker refers to is that shipping jars (as storage vessels) remain little changed due to the fact that they are used as storage vessels. So they will share same characteristic; simple glaze with various shades of brown, green an combinations, round because it's easier to pot and is strong, large because volume is needed etc...

I think the problem here arises to the fact that you are using one specific form or type of jar, from one specific book from one specific author as THE reference or blue print as to how other martaban jars are supposed to be like. The book you gave references to, covers a little bit on every period and type of Chinese ceramics as stated in it's title "Chinese Pottery and Porcelain from Prehistory to the Present" and does not concentrate on any one area of interest. In this case shipping jars. This area covers an immense variety of jars from all over Asia with all sorts of shapes, decoration and production methods from over 2000 years. Even true experts (not me) who authored books on the subject are not exactly sure about the origins of of some jars. Some stubborn jars simply leave the experts stumped. Using only a single reference item to determine what all other items should be like following that single very narrow criteria is very dangerous. Imagine saying that all apples are red and must follow the classic Washington apple shape. All other apples from little round non hybrids to giant Japanese apples with colors from green, yellow and orange are not apples because they are not red and is not the shape of the Washington apple.

I have not changed my determination that Lee's jar is of the period I mentioned. I enclose three images of similar jars found in the two books I mentioned.


Subject:Re: Large Brown Glazed Storage Jar
Posted By: Lee Fri, Mar 10, 2006

Being a newcomer collecting Chinese ceramics I find the Asian Art Forums very interesting and informative.

Thank you to whom it may concern who have shared and contributed their comments especially to Ian for his detailed analysis with relevant references on the large brown glazed storage jar.


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